Barbarastanwyck_robertwagner

May/December romances — now called cougar attacks — are as old as the Hollywood Hills.

41s2jf12axl ss500  Robert Wagner's secret affair with film icon Barbara StanwyckRobert Wagner, 78, is now revealing a secret affair with a much older Hollywood screen legend in his new autobiography, "Pieces of my Heart," co-authored by Scott Eyman. Click here to see Wagner speak about the book.

Wagner writes about his four-year romance with tough-gal actress  Barbara Stanwyck. They met on the set of the 1953 movie, "Titanic," when he was 22 and she was 45. She was divorced at that time from Robert Taylor.

It had been rumored that Stanwyck was a lesbian, which she denied until her death in 1990. But she was, as Time’s Richard Corliss points out, often referred to as "too much woman for one man," and he describes her as the screen’s "toughest, tastiest cookie," and recalls the line in "Ten Cents a Dance" when she sniffs, "You’re not a man. You’re not even a good sample."

Wagner writes that Stanwyck gave him "self-esteem." What did he give her? Worth thinking about. But he admits it was she who broke it off after four years because they were both busy working and the age difference was too great.

Robertwag_tomw_15974396_600Wagner writes he "would always have been Mr. Stanwyck" and they both knew it.

Are you surprised by any of this news? I am. Who knew Robert Wagner was working a lot in his mid-20s.

For the first time, Wagner also writes about the controversial drowning death of his wife, Natalie Wood, which plunged him into a long and deep depression.

Photos: Top: Lionel Stander, Stefanie Powers, Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Wagner at the Emmys in 1983. Bottom: Wagner and Natalie Wood at the premiere of "The Godfather" in 1972. Credit: WireImage

Posted by:Elizabeth Snead